September 16, 2010
As I was driving over to the starting point of today’s session on the trails, I realized that it was somewhat of a continuation of the first part of the run I did three days ago. While on the run on Monday, I met up with a junction of the Kakiat Trail, and knew that I would be quite near this very same junction toward the end of my run today. And again, I found myself driving down Johnsontown Road to get to my starting point. But this time, I would park at the end of this remote road, in what turned out to be a quiet and very picturesque cul-de-sac, rimmed with tall white pine trees. Upon arriving at the southern trailhead of the White Bar Trail, I saw three other cars, so it was obvious that I was not the first one on the trails this morning. But it seemed likely that I was the only one who was running the trails.
The run began on a very easy stretch of trail, but even so, I found it a challenge to get my legs moving and feeling good. As I moseyed along over this flat, non-technical section, it occurred to me that running on tired, sore legs was starting to become a habit, and perhaps one that I would always know as a regular trail runner. But in what was also becoming habit, with each passing minute, the legs kinda forgot that they were tired and sore, and before I knew it, it was the beautiful scenery that was consuming my thoughts, and not the muscle discomfort. It was as if the strength to run was just below the surface, and that the fatigue was just an outer layer that simply needed to be stripped away. This – I decided – was an experience that I really enjoyed.
The White Bar Trail was one that I had covered the majority of in my prior runs, and the way I had it worked out, I would complete this trail today by running approximately three miles of it, but in each of two different directions. Right now, I was running north, and headed in the direction of Lake Sebago. But after hitting the top of today’s loop (near Lake Skenonto), I would cover the remaining segment by running in a southerly direction. In fact, looking at the whole of today’s run on the trail map, it was more or less a Figure 8 in shape, with a small section of the White Bar in the middle that I would run twice.
And so, after what seemed like a slow start, I finally did get going, and within about a quarter mile or so, I met with the first of what would be two junctions with the previously mentioned Kakiat Trail. I was running parallel to Seven Lakes Drive at this point, and could see the road just 25-50 yards or so to my right. It was only after a good mile or so that the trail veered left and began moving away from the road. The running remained fairly non-technical for the next mile or so, during which time the White Bar Trail shared some of its length with the Tuxedo-Mt Ivy Trail, and I passed a shelter called the Dutch Doctor.
Shortly beyond the shelter, I turned right onto the Triangle Trail. This was another trail of which I had run the majority of the sections of during prior runs, and just as with the White Bar, I would likewise be completing this trail today. Due to the large overgrowth of mountain brush, parts of this trail were difficult to see underfoot, and I had to take caution with each step, never knowing whether there would be a sizable rock on which to roll my ankle! But I made it through this section in good stead, and finally emerged at my first viewpoint. In this case, it was a beautiful vista of the northern arm of Lake Sebago.
Because of the terrain it was difficult to get to the shoreline, but from within the tree cover, I could see all the way to the north end of the lake (about a mile away), and Sebago Beach. I ran briefly along the water’s edge, with other gorgeous views of the lake opening up before me, before climbing over a challenging rise, and eventually reaching the southern end of Lake Skenanto. Skenanto is a small lake as lakes in this park go, but no less pretty than it’s bigger brothers and sisters. After a brief stop to take in some fluid, I moved on, and very quickly reached the junction of the Victory Trail.
What’s particularly cute about the Victory Trail is that its trail blazes are white rectangles with a blue letter “V” on them. It’s one of but a handful of trails in the whole park that designates itself in such a personal sort of way, and it made me smile more than usual to see the markings on the trees as I traveled along. The Victory Trail is essentially just a gravel woods road its entire length, so the running here was quite easy, and when I reached the junction of the White Bar trail just a quarter mile later, I was able to check this trail off my list as another one that I had now completed end-to-end.
Turning left onto the White Bar, I was headed south now, and after rimming a small swamp and crossing over a dried up creek bed that probably originates from the swamp when conditions aren’t so arid, I found myself returned to the junction of the Triangle Trail that I had passed about 45 minutes earlier. After retracing a short bit of ground on the White Bar Trail, I made a right hand turn onto the Tuxedo-Mt Ivy Trail. From here began a mile-and-a-quarter long, 400-foot ascent up to Claudius Smith’s Den. The going was not only heavily uphill, but was technical to boot, so in some places, it was all I could do to keep my legs moving forward. About two thirds of the way up, I stopped and took a sip from my Hydrapak, and made my way up the remainder of the mountain.
After skulking around Claudius Smith’s Den briefly, I managed to find the southerly junction to the Blue Disc Trail. The Blue Disc would be my last trail of the day, and having already completed the northern section of this trail during a run last month, this section would finish off the trail, making it the 4th trail of the day that I would be able to check off the list. This was turning out to be a very efficient run!
Heading for home now (as it were), I scampered down a steep slope from Claudius Smith’s Den, and the first thing I saw was a loose dog. I couldn’t even imagine how a stray dog had gotten all the way out here in the mountains, but as it turned out, he/she was merely a hundred yards or so ahead of his master, so my thoughts of “mad dog!” were very quickly mollified.
After a segment of rocky but fairly flat running, I came upon an interesting rock formation called Elbow Brush. Seeing the trail markings on the rocks, I didn’t have to wonder how this formation got its name. It asks that you pass though a narrow rock crevice, brushing your elbows on the sides as you do so. Well, weighing in at all of 142 pounds soaking wet, I somehow managed to squeeze through without bruising my elbows.
Shortly afterward was my last uphill push – up to the ridge of Pound Mountain. Gathering my breath at the top, and feeling grateful that the climbing for today was finally done, I took in some more fluid (for those who are wondering, I typically carry a 2-to-1 mixture of Powerade and water), and began a short run along the top of the mountain. Just before I started the final descent, I came to a vista where from I could see for many miles, and as I looked down, I could see the Visitor’s Center on Seven Lakes Drive. It was a phenomenal view, and the breezes that were blowing across my face felt quite nice. But with a bit more work left to be done, I ventured on and came to a steep rock descent identified on the map as Almost Perpendicular. Just as it was with Elbow Brush, to see this part of the mountain, you would understand where the name Almost Perpendicular came from.
I managed to make it down without breaking a bone, and then came upon my second dog of this run. Knowing that I was now close to civilization, I was less worried about meeting up with a rabid animal, but after running past the dog and then coming upon its owner, she said to me with a perfectly straight face “Are you running from my dog?” I had to laugh. It’s too funny to think that if a man is running in the woods, most people think he must be running away from an animal ! Anyway, I politely told her “No, I’m just running, that’s all” and I finished my way down the mountain as quickly and safely as I could. Near the bottom, I made a final pass over the Kakiat Trail (which I have slated for a future run sometime in October), and soon afterward found myself emerging back onto Johnsontown Rd.
After a short break to stare at the beautiful white pines and to cool down, I hopped in the car and headed back down Johnsontown Rd toward Sloatsburg. Along the way, I happened across the same man with his two pit bull terriers that I had seen on Monday, only this time he was walking with his wife as well. I pulled over, rolled down my window to say hello, and after a brief exchange, he said to his wife “Honey, this is the guy I was telling you about!” I smiled, thanked them both for the kind words of support they gave me, and went and got a well-deserved cup of coffee. Another wonderful day on the trails……